Food Policy
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Why Agriculture Is Nigeria's New Oil - Forbes (2013)

Why Agriculture Is Nigeria's New Oil - Forbes (2013) | Food Policy |

As Nigeria’s Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina is championing agricultural investments in one of Africa’s fastest growing economies through bold policy reforms.


Much is said about a rising Africa on the global economic stage. To be sure, there is a new energy and dynamism across the continent. It can be seen in an emerging middle class, improved governance, and a heightened interest by foreign investors. But amidst this excitement, there remains a disturbing paradox. Africa is a continent with enormous potential for agricultural growth, yet one where food insecurity and malnutrition are widespread and persistent.


Agriculture is fundamental to every country’s prosperity, security and sovereignty. In the United States, farmers, processors, researchers and policy-makers at all levels work together to promote and ensure a vibrant agricultural economy. The result is that Americans enjoy not only an abundant food supply, but also nutritional choices and affordability. Africa is now beginning to understand the critical link between agriculture and prosperity. In Nigeria, we’re making agriculture the new oil.


Nigeria was largely self-sufficient in food in the 1960s. Then, we discovered oil and became too dependent on this resource as the economic driver of growth, export income and development. We abandoned our farmers. Yields stagnated. Investments in infrastructure were redirected. Rural communities slid into poverty. We became a food-importing country, spending an average $11 billion a year on wheat, rice, sugar and fish imports alone.


And yet we have an abundance of resources – 84 million hectares of arable land, two of Africa’s largest rivers, and a large and young workforce to support agricultural intensification. Plus we have 167 million consumers to support increased food production and processing. 

But potential alone is not enough; we had to find a way to unlock it. We needed a major transformation of our agricultural sector. The change had to be across the entire value chain – from field to mill to table. So in 2011, we launched the Agricultural Transformation Agenda, with the goal of adding 20 million metric tons of food to the domestic supply by 2015. And in the process, create 3.5 million new jobs in agriculture and food-related industries.


Our first decision was to stop looking at agriculture as a government-run, charitable development program across rural Nigeria. We now treat agriculture as a business. Government’s role is simple: to create the enabling environment, policies and incentives for a private sector-led transformation to flourish... 

We would also create value-added foodstuffs from our staple crops through an aggressive import-substitution program and policies that would encourage new investment in food production and promote agriculture sustainability and resilience. We needed to begin to think of, and instill in others, the concept of agriculture as a business. We ended four decades of corruption in the fertilizer and seed sectors. We took government out of a distribution system that benefited an elite group of farmers at the expense of Nigeria’s smallholder farmers. 

We also launched a Growth Enhancement Scheme to provide subsidized inputs to farmers. And we developed an Electronic Wallet System which has allowed 5 million smallholder farmers to receive subsidized electronic vouchers for seeds and fertilizers on their mobile phones. Nigeria is the first country in Africa to develop and use mobile phones to reach farmers with subsidized farm inputs.


Today seed and fertilizer companies are selling directly to farmers, not to the government. Supply chains are being developed to reach farmers in rural areas. Banks are loaning money to companies and agro dealers. We have set a target to become self-sufficient in rice by 2015 by providing quality seeds, fertilizers and other support to our rice farmers. In just one year Nigeria unleashed a rice revolution and produced more than 50 per cent of all its rice needs. Private sector responded with 14 new industrial-scale rice mills, making high-quality local rice available on the market. 


We are reducing our yearly $4 billion wheat import cost through a cassava flour substitution policy to replace imported wheat flour with high-quality, home-grown cassava flour in producing bread. The government is supporting private sector investment in large-scale cassava processing plants. We are also developing the cassava value chain by producing starch that can be utilized in sweeteners to reduce sugar imports... 


The UN recently recognized Nigeria for meeting the Millennium Development Goal #1, reducing the population of hungry people by half, three years ahead of schedule. We did this by growing more food, raising farm incomes and creating jobs in farming and food processing – not simply by managing poverty. This is a new dawn. Agriculture was Nigeria’s past; and in agriculture – as a business – lies Nigeria’s greater future.

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

Overall an interesting article, but "to replace imported wheat flour with high-quality, home-grown cassava flour in producing bread" may be less of a good idea to the extent that wheat flour contains more micronutrients than cassava flour – unless the bread flour is fortified. 

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Rethinking the Measurement of Undernutrition in a Broader Health Context: Should We Look at Possible Causes or Actual Effects? - Stein (2014) - Global Food Security

Rethinking the Measurement of Undernutrition in a Broader Health Context: Should We Look at Possible Causes or Actual Effects? - Stein (2014) - Global Food Security | Food Policy |

When measuring food and nutrition security, focusing on proxy indicators such as food availability, or on selected head count figures such as stunting rates, gives an incomplete picture. Outcome-based global burden of disease (GBD) studies offer an alternative for monitoring the burden of chronic and hidden hunger. Judging by this measure, the international goal of halving global hunger between 1990 and 2015 has already been achieved.


Disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) that are used as metric in GBD studies can be converted into more easily understood monetary terms. The resulting estimate of the annual cost of global hunger of up to 1.9 trillion international dollars may be better suited to illustrate the magnitude of the remaining problem...


It is pertinent to recall why we are concerned about hunger and malnutrition: because of the negative consequences it has for people’s health and well-being. Food and nutrition insecurity is usually defined in terms of what determines hunger... However, to measure hunger... the outcome of food and nutrition insecurity, i.e. the burden of disease that is caused by hunger, should be used...


One challenge when trying to measure health outcomes of undernutrition is the multitude of adverse health consequences that can be attributed to hunger, in particular to micronutrient deficiencies... Therefore the question is whether health can be measured in a consistent way across such diverse outcomes. To make the burden imposed by different health outcomes comparable... the World Bank introduced the concept of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs)...


The WHO used DALYs to quantify the global burden of disease (GBD), for which it reported results at the country level and for a range of health outcomes. Based on these readily available data, DALYs can be used to quantify the global burden of hunger... A more recent GBD study... represents an improvement since it covers more causes and risk factors of poor nutrition... per year more than 160 million DALYs are lost due to hunger, which is more than 6 percent of the total burden of disease...


While... using DALYs to measure hunger is a better approach... one challenge for the use of DALYs is their abstractness: what exactly is a “disability-adjusted life year”? ... One way of illustrating the magnitude of the burden of hunger is to express it in money... While there are obvious problems with the monetization of social costs... it offers a coherent framework that permits conducting the kind of broad analyses and comparisons that are needed to guide policy making...


Using this approach produces an estimate for the global cost of hunger of Int$1.9 trillion per year, or 2.4 percent of world income. One indication that the global cost of hunger falls indeed into the trillion-dollar range is the estimate for the worldwide cost of undernutrition of US$1.4 trillion to US$2.1 trillion that the FAO gives... using a very different approach...


The “cost” of hunger is an opportunity cost, i.e. it provides an estimate for the additional annual national income that society foregoes by not solving undernutrition... One estimate of the costs that would have to be incurred to reach more than 80 percent of the world’s undernourished children with key nutrition interventions suggests this could be as (relatively) little as $10 billion a year, i.e. only one-hundredth of the current cost of hunger...


It is interesting to compare the estimate of the number of hungry people with that of the number of DALYs lost due to hunger over time. Judging by the FAO’s indicator, the achievement of MDG 1 is not very likely. However, if the objective was indeed more generally to “reduce hunger by half”, this has already been achieved – if hunger is measured using DALYs... in 1990 the burden of hunger was 320 million DALYs lost, but by 2010 this burden had already shrunk by half to 160 million DALYs lost...


The discrepancy in the assessment of the development of global hunger if based on food availability versus actual health outcomes might be surprising, but as... discussed above, food availability is but one determinant of (or input into) hunger, whereas DALYs measure the outcome of hunger that results from all inputs combined. In this case – in the presence of other, uncorrelated inputs into hunger that change over time – an indicator that monitors only one input is bound to show a different development than an indicator that measures the final outcome...


Not least in light of the discussion of the post-2015 development agenda... it is important that agreed-upon targets can be operationalized based on indicators that allow precise monitoring of progress… Stakeholders in food and nutrition security need to be aware of the advantages of outcome-based measures like DALYs... those working on GBD studies should pay more attention to undernutrition and to related health risks, and more frequent updates of the GBD or relevant subsets could further increase the usefulness of DALYs...


Using DALYs to quantify the burden of hunger has shown that the international efforts to improve global welfare are bearing fruit and that progress in the fight against undernutrition has been more rapid than is generally believed. Still, the problem of global hunger remains unresolved, and its magnitude becomes especially apparent when approximated in more familiar monetary terms. With more detailed, country-level DALYs data becoming available, further research can determine in which countries and for which nutrition-related health outcomes the biggest reductions in the burden of hunger have been achieved – and it can help explain why...


Original article:


Audio-slides, 4 min.:


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Temperature increase reduces global yields of major crops in four independent estimates - Zhao &al (2017) - PNAS

Temperature increase reduces global yields of major crops in four independent estimates - Zhao &al (2017) - PNAS | Food Policy |

Agricultural production is vulnerable to climate change. Understanding climate change, especially the temperature impacts, is critical if policymakers, agriculturalists, and crop breeders are to ensure global food security... 

Wheat, rice, maize, and soybean provide two-thirds of human caloric intake. Assessing the impact of global temperature increase on production of these crops is therefore critical to maintaining global food supply, but different studies have yielded different results. Here, we investigated the impacts of temperature on yields of the four crops by compiling extensive published results from four analytical methods: global grid-based and local point-based models, statistical regressions, and field-warming experiments. 

Results from the different methods consistently showed negative temperature impacts on crop yield at the global scale, generally underpinned by similar impacts at country and site scales. Without CO2 fertilization, effective adaptation, and genetic improvement, each degree-Celsius increase in global mean temperature would, on average, reduce global yields of wheat by 6.0%, rice by 3.2%, maize by 7.4%, and soybean by 3.1%. 

Results are highly heterogeneous across crops and geographical areas, with some positive impact estimates. Multimethod analyses improved the confidence in assessments of future climate impacts on global major crops and suggest crop- and region-specific adaptation strategies to ensure food security for an increasing world population.

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If Everyone Ate Beans Instead of Beef - Atlantic (2017) 

If Everyone Ate Beans Instead of Beef - Atlantic (2017)  | Food Policy |

With one dietary change, the U.S. could almost meet greenhouse-gas emission goals.

Helen Harwatt is a researcher trained in environmental nutrition, a field focused on developing food systems that balance human health and sustainability. She’s interested in policy, but realistic about how much progress can be expected under the aforementioned leadership. So she and colleagues have done research on maximizing the impacts of individuals. As with so many things in life and health, that tends to come down to food.

Recently Harwatt and a team of scientists... calculated just what would happen if every American made one dietary change: substituting beans for beef. They found that if everyone were willing and able to do that... the U.S. could still come close to meeting its 2020 greenhouse-gas emission goals, pledged by President Barack Obama in 2009.

That is, even if nothing about our energy infrastructure or transportation system changed – and even if people kept eating chicken and pork and eggs and cheese – this one dietary change could achieve somewhere between 46 and 74 percent of the reductions needed to meet the target.

“I think there’s genuinely a lack of awareness about how much impact this sort of change can have”... This study is novel for the idea that a person’s dedication to the cause doesn’t have to be complete in order to matter. A relatively small, single-food substitution could be the most powerful change a person makes in terms of their lifetime environmental impact – more so than downsizing one’s car, or being vigilant about turning off light bulbs, and certainly more than quitting showering. 

To understand why the climate impact of beef alone is so large... a sea of soybeans... these beans will be eaten by cows, and the cows will convert the beans to meat, and the humans will eat the meat. In the process, the cows will emit much greenhouse gas, and they will consume far more calories in beans than they will yield in meat, meaning far more clearcutting of forests to farm cattle feed than would be necessary if the beans above were simply eaten by people.

This inefficient process happens on a massive scale. Brazil, the world’s largest exporter of red meat, holds around 212 million cattle... 33 percent of arable land on Earth is used to grow feed for livestock. Even more, 26 percent of the ice-free terrestrial surface of Earth is used for grazing livestock. In all, almost a third of the land on Earth is used to produce meat and animal products. This means much less deforestation and land degradation if so many plant crops weren’t run through the digestive tracts of cattle. If Americans traded their beef for beans, the researchers found, that would free up 42 percent of U.S. crop land.

“The real beauty of this kind of thing is that climate impact doesn’t have to be policy-driven... It can just be a positive, empowering thing for consumers to see that they can make a significant impact by doing something as simple as eating beans instead of beef... The ‘beans for beef’ scenario offers significant climate change mitigation and other environmental benefits, illustrating the high potential of animal to plant food shifts”... 

“I think it’s such an easy-to-grasp concept that it could be less challenging than a whole dietary shift”... thinking on what it means to eat well – to consume responsibly, conscientiously. Rather the beans for beef scenario is the dietary equivalent of effective altruism – focusing on where efforts will have the highest yield. “It’s kind of a worst-first approach, looking at the hottest spot in the food system in terms of greenhouse-gas emissions, and what could that be substituted with without losing protein and calories in the food system? And at the same time, gaining health benefits.”

In addition to the well-documented health benefits of a plant-based diet, this case also brings empowerment... there is some recourse in knowing how far individuals can go...

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Cash Transfers and Child Nutrition: Pathways and Impacts - de Groot &al (2017) - Dev Pol Rev

Cash Transfers and Child Nutrition: Pathways and Impacts - de Groot &al (2017) - Dev Pol Rev | Food Policy |

Childhood malnutrition remains a significant global problem, with an estimated 162 million children under the age of five suffering from stunted growth. 

This article examines the extent to which cash transfer [CT] programmes can improve child nutrition. It adopts a framework that captures and explains the pathways and determinants of child nutrition. The framework is then used to organize and discuss relevant evidence... to identify critical elements that determine child nutrition outcomes as well as knowledge gaps requiring further research, such as children's dietary diversity, caregiver behaviours and stress... 

First, there is strong evidence that CTs have a positive effect on the resources for food security. Households use the transfer to buy larger quantities and higher quality of food (i.e., more nutritious and diverse) and, in many cases, household food security indicators improve. 

Second, in terms of resources for health, the evidence points in general to positive impacts. CTs increase preventive healthcare visits and antenatal care- seeking in most cases. There are also positive effects on better hygiene and on the probability of using improved sanitation or water sources. 

Third, the concept of resources for care in relation to CTs is generally understudied. The broader literature suggests that there is a clear relation between nutritional outcomes, caregiver feeding be-haviours and practices and psychosocial care. There is, however, very little evidence of the impact of CTs on these caregiver behaviours. On the other hand, there is promising evidence that CTs improve the mental health of beneficiaries, including reducing levels of stress... Furthermore, studies suggest that CTs may decrease IPV [intimate partner violence]... Women’s empowerment has been studied extensively in relation to CTs, but while qualitative evidence points to a positive effect... lack of consensus on how to measure women’s empowerment with quantitative indicators. 

Fourth, we identified evidence of impacts of CTs on the two immediate determinants of child nutritional status, dietary intake and health status. The few studies that look specifically at children’s dietary intake found no increase in caloric intake of young children, while three studies found an increase in the number of days children consumed more nutritious food. In terms of children’s health status, the evidence is mixed and the pathways are unclear. Some studies have found a significant reduction in common children’s illnesses... while in other cases no significant or negative effects were found. Similar mixed findings appear for vaccination coverage. The only study that investigated children’s levels of a stress-related biomarker found a significant reduction due to the CT. 

Fifth, the evidence of direct impact of CTs on children’s nutritional status is mixed... the evidence points to a lack of knowledge on the impact pathways, a gap recognized by authors reviewing the link between CTs and child nutritional status...  

In summary, while an increasing number of studies have highlighted the positive role of CTs in increasing resources for food, health and care, the evidence to date on the immediate determinants of child nutrition is mixed with respect to whether CTs can positively impact growth-related outcomes among children. Key gaps should be addressed in future research, including examination of CT impacts on proximate outcomes such as children’s dietary diversity, as well as caregiver behaviours, IPV, and caregiver stress/mental health, all of which have implications for child health and well-being.

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Millions may face protein deficiency as a result of human-caused carbon dioxide emissions - Harvard (2017) 

Millions may face protein deficiency as a result of human-caused carbon dioxide emissions - Harvard (2017)  | Food Policy |

If CO2 levels continue to rise as projected, the populations of 18 countries may lose more than 5% of their dietary protein by 2050 due to a decline in the nutritional value of rice, wheat, and other staple crops... Researchers estimate that roughly an additional 150 million people may be placed at risk of protein deficiency because of elevated levels of CO2 in the atmosphere... 

“This study highlights the need for countries that are most at risk to actively monitor their populations’ nutritional sufficiency, and, more fundamentally, the need for countries to curb human-caused CO2 emissions”... 

Globally, 76% of the population derives most of their daily protein from plants. To estimate their current and future risk of protein deficiency, the researchers combined data from experiments in which crops were exposed to high concentrations of CO2 with global dietary information... and measures of income inequality and demographics.

They found that under elevated CO2 concentrations, the protein contents of rice, wheat, barley, and potatoes decreased by 7.6%, 7.8%, 14.1%, and 6.4%, respectively. The results suggest continuing challenges for Sub Saharan Africa, where millions already experience protein deficiency, and growing challenges for South Asian countries, including India, where rice and wheat supply a large portion of daily protein. The researchers found that India may lose 5.3% of protein from a standard diet, putting a predicted 53 million people at new risk of protein deficiency.

A companion paper... found that CO2-related reductions in iron content in staple food crops are likely to also exacerbate the already significant problem of iron deficiency worldwide. Those most at risk include 354 million children under 5 and 1.06 billion women of childbearing age – predominantly in South Asia and North Africa – who live in countries already experiencing high rates of anemia and who are expected to lose more than 3.8% of dietary iron as a result of this CO2 effect.

These two studies, taken alongside a 2015 study... showing that elevated CO2 emissions are also likely to drive roughly 200 million people into zinc deficiency, quantify the significant nutritional toll expected to arise from human-caused CO2 emissions.

“Strategies to maintain adequate diets need to focus on the most vulnerable countries and populations, and thought must be given to reducing vulnerability to nutrient deficiencies through supporting more diverse and nutritious diets, enriching the nutritional content of staple crops, and breeding crops less sensitive to these CO2 effects. And, of course, we need to dramatically reduce global CO2 emissions as quickly as possible”...

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Assessing the Impact of Agricultural R&D Investments on Long-Term Projections of Food Security - Kristkova &al (2017) - World Ag Resources Food Sec

The purpose of this chapter is to analyze the impact of public agricultural Research and Development (R&D) investments on agricultural productivity and long-term food security to derive policy recommendations. The methodological approach is based on the... Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) model... By endogenizing R&D in global CGE models, it is possible to assess the impact of different public R&D policies on the food availability and food access of food security. 

This study found that R&D investments bring positive effects on the food access dimension of food security, particularly in places such as Sub-Saharan Africa where prices are expected to grow significantly by 2050, as agricultural land becomes scarcer and more expensive. 

Doubling the R&D intensity would soften the land constraints and substantially decelerate food prices, thus preventing the deterioration of living standards of rural households and leading to a gain in daily caloric consumption... Modeling the dynamic accumulation of R&D stocks makes it possible to analyze the effects of R&D on food security over time.

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Protein produced from electricity to alleviate world hunger - LUT (2017) 

A batch of single-cell protein has been produced by using electricity and carbon dioxide... [which] can be further developed for use as food and animal feed. The method releases food production from restrictions related to the environment. The protein can be produced anywhere [where] energy, such as solar energy, is available.

"In practice, all the raw materials are available from the air. In the future, the technology can be transported to, for instance, deserts and other areas facing famine. One possible alternative is a home reactor, a type of domestic appliance that the consumer can use to produce the needed protein"... 

Along with food, the researchers are developing the protein to be used as animal feed. The protein created with electricity can be used as a fodder replacement, thus releasing land areas for other purposes, such as forestry. It allows food to be produced where it is needed.

"Compared to traditional agriculture, the production method currently under development does not require a location with the conditions for agriculture, such as the right temperature, humidity or a certain soil type. This allows us to use a completely automatised process to produce the animal feed required in a shipping container facility built on the farm. 

The method requires no pest-control substances. Only the required amount of fertiliser-like nutrients is used in the closed process. This allows us to avoid any environmental impacts, such as runoffs into water systems or the formation of powerful greenhouse gases"... 

According to estimates by the researchers, the process of creating food from electricity can be nearly 10 times as energy-efficient as common photosynthesis, which is used for cultivation of soy and other products. For the product to be competitive, the production process must become even more efficient. Currently, the production of one gram of protein takes around two weeks, using laboratory equipment that is about the size of a coffee cup.

The next step the researchers are aiming for is to begin pilot production. At the pilot stage, the material would be produced in quantities sufficient for development and testing of fodder and food products. This would also allow a commercialisation to be done.

"We are currently focusing on developing the technology: reactor concepts, technology, improving efficiency and controlling the process. Control of the process involves adjustment and modelling of renewable energy so as to enable the microbes to grow as well as possible. The idea is to develop the concept into a mass product, with a price that drops as the technology becomes more common"... 

"In the long term, protein created with electricity is meant to be used in cooking and [food] products... The mixture is very nutritious, with more than 50 per cent protein and 25 percent carbohydrates. The rest is fats and nucleic acids. The consistency of the final product can be modified by changing the organisms used in the production"...

Alexander J. Stein's insight:
Not much info provided, but on the page with the photos, the caption reads: "The Finnish research project develops a method for producing feed and food with renewable energy and microbes without carbon dioxide", so it seems it's not just electricity... 
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Agricultural research spending must increase in light of future uncertainties - Cai &al (2017) - Food Pol

Agricultural productivity depends critically on investments in research and development (R&D), but there is a long lag in this response. Failing to invest today in improvements of agricultural productivity cannot be simply corrected a few decades later if the world finds itself short of food at that point in time. This fundamental irreversibility is particularly problematic in light of uncertain future population, income, and climate change... 

This paper finds the optimal path of agricultural R&D spending over the 21st century... along with valuation of those regrets associated with investment decisions later revealed to be in error. The maximum regret is minimized to find a robust optimal R&D pathway that factors in key uncertainties and the lag in productivity response to R&D. 

Results indicate that the whole of uncertainty’s impact on R&D is greater than the sum of its individual parts. Uncertainty in future population has the dominant impact... the optimal R&D spending strategy is very close to the one that will increase agricultural productivity fast enough to feed the World under the most populous scenario. It also suggests that society should accelerate R&D spending up to mid-century, thereafter moderating this growth rate.

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World hunger on the rise again, reversing years of progress - FAO (2017) 

World hunger on the rise again, reversing years of progress - FAO (2017)  | Food Policy |

The number of hungry people in the world has increased since 2015, reversing years of progress... Almost 60 percent of the people suffering from hunger in the world live in countries affected by conflict and climate change.

FAO currently identifies 19 countries in a protracted crisis situation, often also facing extreme climatic events such as droughts and floods. FAO has signaled high risk of famine in northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen with 20 million people severely affected.

The livelihoods of these mostly rural people have been disrupted and "many of them have found no option other than increasing the statistics of distress migration... Strong political commitment to eradicate hunger is fundamental, but it is not enough... Hunger will only be defeated if countries translate their pledges into action"...  

"Peace is of course the key to ending these crises, but we cannot wait for peace to take action" and FAO, the World Food Program and the International Fund for Agricultural Development are all working hard... "It is extremely important to ensure that these people have the conditions to continue producing their own food"...

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Urban agriculture only provides small environmental benefits in northeastern US - American Chemical Society

Urban agriculture only provides small environmental benefits in northeastern US - American Chemical Society | Food Policy |

“Buy local” sounds like a great environmental slogan, epitomized for city dwellers by urban agriculture. But when it comes to growing fruits and vegetables in vacant lots and on rooftops in cities, is the practice really better for the planet than conventional farming? A new analysis of urban agriculture in the northeastern U.S.... found that the regional “green” benefits consumers expect could be meager at best.

Urban agriculture seems to offer clear environmental plusses. The conventional system requires trucks to crisscross the country delivering food, while releasing greenhouse gases. Rural farms can also require clearing huge swaths of forest land for crops. Some analyses have suggested that bringing agriculture into cities has lowered food-related greenhouse gas emissions. But the data used in these reports did not apply to the cold northeastern U.S. climate, where urban agriculture is starting to take root...

Under optimal conditions, urban agriculture in Boston would only reduce food-related carbon emissions by 1 to 3 percent... Consumers... who are really determined to lower their food-related carbon footprint should minimize purchases of meat and dairy products. That’s because most urban agriculture... doesn’t include cows, other livestock and dairy production, and they account for 40 to 50 percent or more of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and land use. 

However, growing fruits and vegetables in high-density areas could have other benefits. The practice could, for example, provide city residents easier access to fresh produce...

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Corn better used as food than biofuel - Illinois (2017) 

Corn better used as food than biofuel - Illinois (2017)  | Food Policy |

Corn is grown not only for food, it is also an important renewable energy source. Renewable biofuels can come with hidden economic and environmental issues, and the question of whether corn is better utilized as food or as a biofuel has persisted since ethanol came into use. For the first time, researchers... quantified and compared these issues in terms of economics of the entire production system to determine if the benefits of biofuel corn outweigh the costs... 

The... group introduced a comprehensive view of the agricultural system, called critical zone services, to analyze crops’ impacts on the environment in monetary terms. “The critical zone is the permeable layer of the landscape near the surface that stretches from the top of the vegetation down to the groundwater... The human energy and resource input involved in agriculture production alters the composition of the critical zone, which we are able to convert into a social cost.”

To compare the energy efficiency and environmental impacts of corn production and processing for food and for biofuel, the researchers inventoried the resources required for corn production and processing, then determined the economic and environmental impact of using these resources – all defined in terms of energy available and expended, and normalized to cost in U.S. dollars.

“There are a lot of abstract concepts to contend with when discussing human-induced effects in the critical zone in agricultural areas... We want to present it in a way that will show the equivalent dollar value of the human energy expended in agricultural production and how much we gain when corn is used as food versus biofuel.”

Kumar and Richardson accounted for numerous factors in their analysis, including assessing the energy required to prepare and maintain the landscape for agricultural production for corn and its conversion to biofuel. Then, they quantified the environmental benefits and impacts in terms of critical zone services, representing the effects on the atmosphere, water quality and corn’s societal value, both as food and fuel.

In monetary terms, their results show that the net social and economic worth of food corn production in the U.S. is $1,492 per hectare, versus a $10 per hectare loss for biofuel corn production.

“One of the key factors lies in the soil”... The assessment considered both short-term and long-term effects, such as nutrients and carbon storage in the soil. “We found that most of the environmental impacts came from soil nutrient fluxes. Soil’s role is often overlooked in this type of assessment”... “Using corn as a fuel source seems to be an easy path to renewable energy... However... the environmental costs are much greater, and the benefits fewer, than using corn for food.”

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Prevalence and Correlates of Food Insecurity among Children across the Globe - Pereira &al (2017) - UNICEF

Prevalence and Correlates of Food Insecurity among Children across the Globe - Pereira &al (2017) - UNICEF | Food Policy |

Target 2.1 of the Sustainable Development Goals calls for an end to hunger, in all its forms, by 2030. Measuring food security among children under age 5, who represent a quarter of the world’s population, remains a challenge that is largely unfeasible for current global monitoring systems. 

The SDG framework has agreed to use the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) to measure moderate and severe food insecurity. The FIES is an experience-based metric that reports food-related behaviours on the inability to access food due to resource constraints. We present the first global estimates of the share and number of children below age 15, who live with a respondent who is food insecure. 

Among 147 countries and four territories, 41% of children under age 15 live with a respondent who is moderately or severely food insecure, 19% live with a respondent who is severely food insecure, and 45% live with a respondent who reported not having enough money to buy food in the previous 12 months. These estimates translate into roughly 605 million, 260 million and 688 million children under age 15, respectively... 

Correlations of food insecurity and income per capita between 2006 and 2015, show that some regions were harder hit by the shocks in food prices and the Great Recession than others. Our estimates are the first to quantify the extent of food insecurity among households with children across countries and ideally, will encourage and provide motivation for continued global efforts to address this issue and monitor progress towards SDGs...

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On the Measurement of Food Waste - Bellemare &al (2017) - Am J Ag Econ

One-quarter to one-third of all the food produced worldwide is wasted. We develop a simple framework to systematically think about food waste based on the life cycle of a typical food item. Based on our framework, we identify problems with extant measures of food waste and propose a more consistent and practical approach. 

In so doing, we first show that the widely cited, extant measures of the quantity and value of food waste are inconsistent with one another and overstate the problem of food waste. By misdirecting and misallocating some of the resources that are currently put into food waste reduction efforts, this overstatement of the problem could have severe consequences for public policy. 

Our framework then allows documenting the points of intervention for policies aimed at reducing the extent of food waste in the life cycle of food and the identification of interdependencies between potential policy levers.

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Empirical effects of short-term export bans: The case of African maize - Porteous (2017) - Food Pol

Empirical effects of short-term export bans: The case of African maize - Porteous (2017) - Food Pol | Food Policy |

Temporary export restrictions have been widely used in recent years in an attempt to stabilize domestic prices of staple grains. I... investigate the empirical effects of... export bans on maize implemented... in East and Southern Africa. I find no statistically significant effect of export bans on the price gaps between pairs of affected cross-border markets... 

However, prices and price volatility in the implementing country are significantly higher during export ban periods... Export bans in the region are imperfectly enforced, divert trade into the informal sector, and appear to destabilize domestic markets rather than stabilizing them.

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Comparative Study of Biofortified and Non-biofortified Wheat in Uttar Pradesh, India: Combating Nutritional Security through Biofortification - Tewari &al (2017) - Int J Ag Stat Sci

Comparative Study of Biofortified and Non-biofortified Wheat in Uttar Pradesh, India: Combating Nutritional Security through Biofortification  - Tewari &al (2017) - Int J Ag Stat Sci | Food Policy |
Biofortification is the process of enriching the staple food crops with nutrients and a way towards more nourishing future. 

India ranks number one in terms of low birth weight infants at an estimated 7.4 million undernourished kids. Mild to moderate zinc deficiency (ZnD) is common in India because the commonly consumed staple foods have low zinc contents. The prevalence of zinc deficiency is reported 48.1 per cent among under five years children in Uttar Pradesh. 

The present study is carried out to assess the health benefits of biofortified wheat in Uttar Pradesh by using Disability-adjusted Life Years (DALYs) method. The current burden of ZnD in Uttar Pradesh is estimated to be 0.91 million DALYs lost, out of which 890,000 DALYs from mortality and 24,500 DALYs due to morbidity. 

The comparative economics between biofortified and non-biofortified wheat variety revealed that there is no significant difference in the cost of cultivation and other characteristics like cooking quality, taste, appearance of the varieties... 

Zinc biofortification was found to be very cost-effective as the cost of saving one DALYs ranges from Rs. 79 to Rs. 177. Therefore, the zinc biofortification is a promising tool to achieve the goal of nutritional security in Uttar Pradesh as well as India.

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Comparative analysis of environmental impacts of agricultural production systems, agricultural input efficiency, and food choice - Clark & Tilman (2017) - Env Res Letters 

Comparative analysis of environmental impacts of agricultural production systems, agricultural input efficiency, and food choice - Clark & Tilman (2017) - Env Res Letters  | Food Policy |

Global agricultural feeds over 7 billion people, but is also a leading cause of environmental degradation. Understanding how alternative agricultural production systems, agricultural input efficiency, and food choice drive environmental degradation is necessary for reducing agriculture's environmental impacts. 

A meta-analysis of life cycle assessments that includes 742 agricultural systems and over 90 unique foods produced primarily in high-input systems shows that, per unit of food, organic systems require more land, cause more eutrophication, use less energy, but emit similar greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) as conventional systems; that grass-fed beef requires more land and emits similar GHG emissions as grain-feed beef; and that low-input aquaculture and non-trawling fisheries have much lower GHG emissions than trawling fisheries... 

Further, for all environmental indicators and nutritional units examined, plant-based foods have the lowest environmental impacts; eggs, dairy, pork, poultry, non-trawling fisheries, and non-recirculating aquaculture have intermediate impacts; and ruminant meat has impacts ~100 times those of plant-based foods. 

Our analyses show that dietary shifts towards low-impact foods and increases in agricultural input use efficiency would offer larger environmental benefits than would switches from conventional agricultural systems to alternatives such as organic agriculture or grass-fed beef.

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Nutrition sensitive value chains: Theory, progress, and open questions -  Allen & de Brauw (2017) - Global Food Sec

Nutrition sensitive value chains: Theory, progress, and open questions -  Allen & de Brauw (2017) - Global Food Sec | Food Policy |

The second Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) challenges the world to achieve food security and improve nutrition by 2030 but food insecurity and micronutrient deficiencies remain stubbornly high and rates of overweight and obesity are rising throughout the world. 

To attain SDG 2, food systems must deliver more nutritious food to populations. For food systems to do so, value chains for micronutrient-rich foods must be improved, making such foods more available and affordable to consumers... 

We take a consumer focus on the value chains to consider the types of interventions that could lead to improved intakes of micronutrient-rich foods, and review the present literature on the types of value chain assessments, interventions, and initiatives that are attempting to improve nutrition as well as potential future directions... 

In this paper, we present a simple model to illustrate how the triple burden of malnutrition arises, and argue that agricultural value chains are potentially an important tool to reduce all three forms of malnutrition. From the consumer perspective, we describe three classes of interventions that fit our simple model, and how they might act to reduce malnutrition... 

First, more evidence on the effectiveness of BCC [behavior change communication] programs linked to agricultural and value chain interventions is required; if multiple forms of messages are necessary, it remains important to identify the most efficient and cost-effective methods of delivering those messages, and in particular more research is necessary on BCCs linked to overnutrition. 

Second, improving the labeling of all packaged foods in developing countries could improve information regarding food choices. However, more evidence is needed to understand whether that information leads to improved or increased intakes of nutritious foods or smaller intakes of less nutritious foods, and relative cost effectiveness of such labels. 

Third, interventions that can lower transaction costs such as improved cold chain technology could quickly change farmer incentives, making it possible to grow more fruits and vegetables that would otherwise spoil en route to market. 

To ensure that value chain interventions have sustainable impacts on nutrition outcomes, interventions must engage with the private sector throughout. Private actors in agricultural value chains range from large, vertically-integrated multinational corporations to individuals who transport, store, aggregate, or sell food. While the private sector can be engaged to include goals such as improved nutrition or sustainability, such interventions are more likely to be taken to scale if profit incentives can be aligned with nutritional outcomes. 

Finally, an increased commitment to collect indicators appropriate to measure food security and nutrition is also critical to assessing progress towards the SDGs... several countries collect insufficient data to be able to measure progress on malnutrition. Without this data on malnutrition in all its forms, it will be impossible to understand that progress that is being made to reduce malnutrition and the gaps that still exist. 

It is important that as more activities take place, indicators selected for measurement are appropriately matched to program activities; many programs are not sufficiently large to measure impact on nutritional status but can measure impacts to dietary quality or consumption. 

Being able to demonstrate impact on indicators of both food security and nutrition will be important to engage with the private sector on a number of these interventions that are not provided by the public sector. It is hoped that as a result, partnerships between public and private sectors are strengthened and more informed, longer-term interventions can be incorporated in national or regional policies.

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Climate Change and Food Security: Threats and Adaptation - Chen &al (2017) - World Ag Res Food Sec

Food security is at risk from climate change... and its drivers already affect food production through increased temperatures, changed precipitation patterns, extreme event frequency, and escalated carbon dioxide (CO2) and ozone... This will cause changes to agricultural production worldwide with regional consequences for global food security... 

Adaptations must be pursued that help agriculture maintain and enhance productivity under climate change while meeting growing demands for food. This chapter reviews the current literature on the impacts of climate change on agriculture and possible adaptation strategies to combat its effects... 

Food production systems around the world will be altered unevenly by climate change, with some gaining and many losing. Possible adaptation strategies will be suggested and successful implementation will need to include both public and private actions...

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Nutrient Density: An Important Concept to Ensure Food and Nutrition Security in Modern Societies - Troesch &al (2017) - Springer

Nutrient Density: An Important Concept to Ensure Food and Nutrition Security in Modern Societies - Troesch &al (2017) - Springer | Food Policy |

Dietary habits, particularly in affluent societies, increasingly rely on foods prepared and consumed away from home. Foods eaten away from home tend to be higher in energy and fat than are foods sourced in grocery stores and prepared and consumed in the household. 

This article explores the effect this change in dietary habit has on nutritional intake, and discusses the role that nutrient density – defined here as the ratio of essential nutrients to energy – can play in improving nutrition in line with modern lifestyles. 

In affluent societies and increasingly in low-and middle-income countries too, large numbers of people depend more and more on food that has not been prepared by themselves. At the same time, an imbalance exists between elevated energy intakes and inadequate micronutrient intakes. 

Increasing the nutrient density of diets is a promising approach to improving nutrition... Changed dietary habits come with new responsibilities for food providers, who need to make sure that their products provide adequate amounts of nutrients. Acceptability, transparency, labeling and costs... have a key role to play in convincing consumers to integrate such products into their diets.

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Review: Food loss and waste in Sub-Saharan Africa - Sheahan & Barrett (2017) - Food Pol

The research, development practitioner, and donor community has begun to focus on food loss and waste – often referred to as post-harvest losses (PHL) – in Sub-Saharan Africa. This article reviews the current state of the literature on PHL mitigation. 

First, we identify explicitly the varied objectives underlying efforts to reduce PHL levels. 

Second, we summarize the estimated magnitudes of losses, evaluate the methodologies used to generate those estimates, and explore the dearth of thoughtful assessment around “optimal” PHL levels. 

Third, we synthesize and critique the impact evaluation literature around on-farm and off-farm interventions expected to deliver PHL reduction. 

Fourth, we suggest a suite of other approaches to advancing these same objectives, some of which may prove more cost-effective... 

The resurgence of activity and interest in reducing post-harvest losses in Sub-Saharan Africa – largely thought of as the counter-strategy to increasing productivity – encourages a thoughtful synthesis and critical review of the available literature. 

This article helps to establish several important points about the current state of our understanding and reveals the even larger set of unanswered questions that will help to guide more appropriate research and investments. 

We summarize nine key points: 

1. There exist four distinct, underlying objectives of PHL reduction work that most interest the development community: (1) improve food security, (2) improve food safety, (4) reduce wasted resources, and (4) increase profits along the food supply chain. 

2. There remains lack of consensus on the estimated magnitude of PHL in SSA, and even the “best guess” estimates are problematic for a variety of reasons. Furthermore, little reliable information about losses incurred beyond the farm level is currently available. We highlight a new survey method developed and employed in Asia as one for potential replication in SSA. 

3. Food quality losses, as separate from food quantity losses, are likely more widespread in SSA than commonly acknowledged. Unlike efforts to better establish the magnitude of and find innovative ways to curtail or detect quantity losses, we find no similar effort related to the pervasiveness of food of substandard quality in SSA. 

4. The development community lacks a serious assessment of what “optimal” PHL levels are for meeting any of the four underlying objectives identified in point 1. Given that remediation is costly, optimal PHL rates are surely positive. Yet much of the discourse and literature seems to assume that zero PHL is both feasible and optimal. Optimal levels of PHL may diverge, however, for PHL emanating from quantity versus quality/safety reasons, especially conditional on current technologies. 

5. Current estimates of the magnitudes and distribution of losses suggests that most PHL in SSA occur on-farm. As a result, most interventions aimed at reducing PHL have also been directed on-farm, almost entirely around hermetic storage (bags and silos). There is a swell of literature about these products and their efficacy in reducing PHL, although more often than not from controlled settings. There are few other evaluations of innovations related to on- or beyond-farm technologies. 

6. Despite many organizations working on improved storage options, there is a very thin literature on the human welfare impacts or on the impacts with respect to any of the other underlying objectives of PHL (from point 1) related to these technologies. We identify only two studies that employ rigorous evaluation methods that uncover interesting (although contradictory) household level impacts. The literature is also mostly silent on the food quality and safety impacts of these technologies. 

7. Little is known about broader, general equilibrium impacts, the ways in which PHL interventions affect non-adopting farm households as well as actors further up or down the value chain, including consumers. We offer a range of important research questions that have yet to be answered, those most important for understanding the cumulative impact of PHL reduction strategies and the distributional consequences among different sub-populations. 

8. Because the impact evaluation evidence for most existing PHL technologies remains meager and given a crowd of organizations working on storage issues, there may be good reason to consider off-farm interventions that deliver PHL reduction alongside other more broad-based benefits. While other strategies exist, we highlight four: (1) infrastructure improvements, (2) warehouse receipt systems, (3) rural financial market development, and (4) more efficient markets and value chains. 

9. The cost of PHL reduction is likely massive, and the full benefit/cost of many PHL interventions remains largely unknown. The limited, imperfect efforts made to date to estimate relative benefit/cost suggest that PHL reduction is not the most cost-effective means of achieving our objectives (from point 1). We offer a limited set of non-PHL approaches to tackling these same goals. 

The many unanswered questions emanating from these points suggest that investing in a better understanding is crucial before funneling more funds and attention to PHL reduction technologies or processes that may have little payoff. Indeed, the most important place to start might be asking a series of even more foundational questions: if PHL rates appear high, why? Is that perhaps a conditional optimum or do we think agents are systematically making mistakes? If they are making mistakes, is it due to information gaps that can be remedied? Or is the problem that the conditional optimum is constrained by insufficient technological options that can be remedied through product innovation or diffusion? Or is a seemingly high PHL rate merely a symptom of broader systemic problems – e.g., rural financial market failures, poor institutional and physical marketing infrastructure – that merit attention irrespective of PHL considerations? Or is a high PHL rate the byproduct of a highly efficient system that results in food cheap enough that people can afford to lose some? 

Any researcher or organization committed to advancing the four objectives we outline needs to pay attention to PHL in SSA given widespread concerns that such rates are, in some vague sense, “too high.” Yet there is a striking absence of evidence that the rapid increase in attention to and investments in PHL remediation for SSA is paying significant dividends. In part, we suspect this has to do with the remarkable lack of attention to date in attempting to identify what optimal PHL rates might be for different actors in food value chains, given the broader array of (often non-agricultural) constraints and incentives they face, and thus whether PHL remediation efforts are likely to induce uptake and impact. The lack of impact evaluation evidence likely results from a near-exclusive focus on reducing PHL quantities and insufficient emphasis on food safety and quality assurance. A narrow emphasis on reducing food volumes lost post-harvest might even inadvertently aggravate and already serious issue of high rates of food contamination in SSA. With so many important gaps in current knowledge, more emphasis needs to be placed on coordinated learning, especially assessment of whether PHL remediation investments are relatively cost-effective in advancing the four core objectives that motivate such initiatives: improved food security, food safety, and profitability, as well as reduced resource use.

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Slower growth in demand keeping world food prices low - FAO (2017) 

Slower growth in demand keeping world food prices low - FAO (2017)  | Food Policy |

Global food commodity prices are projected to remain low over the next decade compared to previous peaks, as demand growth in a number of emerging economies is expected to slow down and biofuel policies have a diminished impact on markets... 

The completed replenishment of cereal stocks... over the past decade, combined with abundant stocks of most other commodities, should also help limit growth in world prices, which are now almost back to their levels before the 2007-08 food price crisis... 

Per capita demand for food staples remaining flat, except in least developed countries. Additional calories and protein consumption... are expected to come mainly from vegetable oil, sugar and dairy products. Growth in demand for meat is projected to slow, with no new sources of demand projected to maintain the momentum previously generated by China...  

Food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms will nonetheless remain a persistent global problem, requiring a coordinated international approach... 

Future growth in crop production is projected to be principally attained through higher yields - 90 percent of the increase in maize production is expected to come from increased yields and just 10 percent from area expansion. Growth in meat and dairy production, by contrast, is expected to come from both larger herds and higher output per-animal.... Aquaculture would dominate growth in the fish sector and farmed fish production will be the fastest-growing protein source among all commodities...  

The growth in agriculture and fish trade is projected to slow to about half the previous decade's growth rate, and average less than 2 percent per year in volume terms for most commodities. Nevertheless, agricultural trade is expected to remain more resilient to economic downturns than trade in other sectors. For nearly all commodities, exports are projected to remain concentrated in a few supplying countries, which may imply a greater susceptibility of world markets to supply shocks.

"Real prices of most agricultural and fish commodities are expected to decline slightly... As we have seen in the past, unexpected events can easily take markets away from these central trends, so it is essential that governments continue joint efforts to provide stability to world food markets. It is equally important that we look ahead as we seek to meet the fundamental challenge facing world food and agriculture: to ensure access to safe, healthy, and nutritious food for a growing world population, while at the same time using natural resources more sustainably and making an effective contribution to mitigating climate change."

"The report foresees that the average calorie availability per person per day will increase in least developed countries and in most emerging economies... But we also know that more food alone is not enough to eliminate undernourishment and other forms of malnutrition. Access to the additional calories is extremely important. More challenging is the fight against malnutrition: Fighting malnutrition requires a diversified, safe and nutritious diet, ideally produced with a lower environmental footprint."

Focus on Southeast Asia... Economic growth has been strong and the agriculture and fish sectors have developed rapidly in the region... this broad-based growth has enabled the region to significantly reduce undernourishment in recent years. However, the growth of agriculture and fisheries, in particular in the export-oriented fish and palm oil sectors, has led to rising pressure on natural resources.

A greater focus on sustainable development in Southeast Asia will slow the growth of palm oil production... Across the agricultural sector, yields will continue to increase, but cropland is projected to expand by only 10 percent over the next 10 years, compared to 70 percent over the previous decade.

Improved resource management and increased R&D will be needed to achieve sustainable productivity growth across the agricultural sector. Support for rice production could also be reoriented to facilitate the diversification of agriculture. Given the region's sensitivity to climate change, investments to facilitate adaption will be required.

Yield gains are projected to account for 85 percent of the increase in wheat production and 90 percent of the increase in maize production, keeping the increases in harvested area to 2 percent. By contrast, a 14 percent expansion in soybean area, mainly in South America, is projected, accounting for about 60 percent of the global production increase...

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Food security measurement and governance: Assessment of the usefulness of diverse food insecurity indicators for policy makers - Pérez-Escamilla &al (2017) - Global Food Sec 

Improving food security governance depends largely on the identification of food insecurity (FI) indicators that are useful for policy makers to improve their targeting and monitoring efforts... As our study shows, making rational decisions about the best FI indicators to use can be a daunting task given the many options available. 

There is no doubt that the choice of FI indicators first and foremost depends on a clear understanding of the question being asked. Secondly, this choice needs to take into account the utility of each indicator for effective policy making and/or program evaluation... 

We chose to follow a SMART-driven decision process as the framework for making FI indicator decisions across 5 hypothetical scenarios. Our findings show strong agreement... for each scenario and suggest that the evidence-based decision making methodology developed was also helpful to eliminate FI indicators from further consideration...

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Can animal diet mitigate greenhouse emissions? - UPM (2017)

The inclusion of agroindustrial by-products in pig feed can reduce the nitrous oxide emissions (N2O) of the slurry used as manures up to 65%. The aim of this study... was to influence the ingredients of pig diet to modify the composition of slurry used as manures and to assess the possible variations on N2O emissions.

According to the results, soils amended with slurries obtained from modified diets (with orange pulp and carob) decreased N2O emissions by 65 and 47%, respectively, compared with slurries obtained through a conventional pig diet. These results show the potential of alternative strategies of animal feeding to reduce the environmental issues associated with agriculture.

Nitrogen fertilizers, organic or mineral, are responsible for most of the N2O emissions from agricultural activity. This gas has a heating potential 300 times higher than CO2, this is the reason why it is essential to develop mitigation strategies. N2O emissions are mainly caused by microbiological processes known as nitrification and denitrification. When a nitrogen fertilizer is added to the soil, it increases its microbiological activity by activating both processes... 

So far the measures to mitigate nitrous oxide emissions (N2O) were focused on crop management. However, researchers... focused on the beginning of the chain, where the animal by-products are produced and then are revalued as fertilizers.

Two by-products typical from the Mediterranean region were selected to carry out this study, orange pulp and carob. These by-products were added into commercial diets of pigs in substitution of cereals, being respectful with the balance that these diets require to satisfy the animal needs... 

The excreted components through feces and urine (slurry)... varied according to diet. Slurries were used as fertilizers on agricultural soils cultivated with ryegrass, a forage plant used as food for livestock. The N2O emissions were compared to the emissions generated in soils with slurry obtained from pigs fed with a traditional diet... 

The amount of benzoic acid and hippuric acid varied according to the type of diet... Emissions decreased in soils with higher amount of benzoic acid... because such acid reduced the denitrifying microbial capacity of soils which is responsible for most of the N2O emissions... Taking into account that the hippuric acid degrade into the soil to benzoic acid, slurries with higher amount of these acids released less N2O emissions than the rest of slurries.

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A Food Demand Framework for International Food Security Assessment - Beghin &al (2017) - J Pol Model

We present a parsimonious demand modeling approach... The approach incorporates price effects, food quality variation across income deciles, and consistent aggregation over income deciles and food qualities. 

The approach is based on a simple demand approach for four food categories. It relies on data on food availability, complemented by own-price and income elasticities and food price data. Beyond consistent aggregation, the framework exhibits desirable characteristics: food quality is increasing with income; price and income responses become less sensitive with income; and increasing income inequality decreases average per capita food consumption. 

The proposed approach is illustrated for Tanzania. We assess future food insecurity in Tanzania using the calibrated model and evaluate the impact of safety net policies and their budgetary costs. Food-insecure population is estimated as well as the implied food gap expressed in calorie per day per food-insecure person as well as in total annual food volume in grain equivalent. The food gap measure gauges the depth of the chronic food insecurity... 

Corn consumer price subsidies and direct income transfers targeted to two food-insecure deciles were compared with respect to their budgetary implications. The price subsidy policy was found to be more cost-effective. The presented modeling framework is easily scalable to a large set of countries provided data and elasticity estimates are available, and food security policy options can be examined.

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German breeders develop ‘open-source’ plant seeds - Science (2017) 

German breeders develop ‘open-source’ plant seeds - Science (2017)  | Food Policy |

There's open-source software, open-source pharma research, and open-source beer. Now, there are open-source seeds, too. Breeders... released tomato and wheat varieties under an open-source license. Their move... is the first that provides legal protection for the open-source status of future descendants of plant varieties.

The idea behind the open-source license is that scientists and breeders can experiment with seeds – and improve them – unimpeded by legal restrictions. The license “says that you can use the seed in multiple ways but you are not allowed to put a plant variety protection or patent on this seed and all the successive developments of this seed” says... Kotschi, who helped write the license last year... 

People have been breeding plants in search of desirable features, such as drought- and pest-resistance, for millennia. But until 1930, when the United States began applying patent law to plants, there was little a breeder could do to assert ownership over a new variety.

Since then... “plant variety protection,” has begun to block the way for researchers trying to breed new varieties, open-source advocates say. Developing the famous Golden Rice, for example, required so-called humanitarian exemptions to plant patents... 

International agreements on plant variety protection include an exception that allows for research and breeding. But patents are more restrictive... “When one trait in a plant is patented, you are in principle not allowed under the research exemption to use such materials for further breeding”... 

The recent German licensing action circumvents those problems. Anyone can use the varieties, so long as they do not prevent others from conducting research on derivatives; all of the plant's future descendants are also in a “commons”...  

The Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI) tried for several years to write a similar binding license but concluded... that it was too unwieldy to gain widespread acceptance among breeders and seed companies... Because patents play a bigger role in plant intellectual property in the United States, breeders are more hemmed in than in Europe. Instead, OSSI now encourages supporters to make and follow a "pledge" to keep new varieties and derivatives open... 

There's a similar development in India, where agriculture scientist GV Ramanjaneyulu... organized an open-source network that has bred and shared eight varieties of rice, wheat, and pulses. That may seem superfluous, because Indian law does not recognize patents on plants or plant traits at all. But a much-debated seed law pending since 2004 could change that. "We are trying to prepare for the future... Conditions should be much simpler and easier for sharing"... 

A complete shift to an open-source system would harm innovation. Commercial breeders, the main producers of economically important new crop varieties, can't use open-source seeds because they would not be able to claim royalties for any varieties they develop from them. If too many seeds were in the... commons, they would be "killing the business model”... Universities would also lose out if they could no longer charge royalties for plant traits or breeding tools.

How much of an impact the various sharing systems have remains to be seen. For now, it's best to experiment with them in different legal systems...

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Optimizing feeding is necessary to maintain milk production in organic herds - EurekAlert (2017) 

Optimizing feeding is necessary to maintain milk production in organic herds - EurekAlert (2017)  | Food Policy |

Decisions on pasture use and feed management affect greenhouse gas emission. 

Consumer demand for organic milk recently surpassed the available supply, with sales of organic products reaching $35 billion in 2014 and continuing to rise. As farms transition to organic production to meet demand, feeding strategies will need to be adapted... Currently, agriculture accounts for approximately 9% of total US greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; the US dairy industry has committed to a 25% reduction... 

Researchers... created a study to compare the effects of feeding strategies and the associated crop hectares on GHG emissions... "Herd feeding strategies and grazing practices influence on-farm GHG emissions not only through crop production, but also by substantially changing the productivity of the herd... Managing more land as pasture, and obtaining more of the herd feed requirements from pasture, can increase the GHG emissions"... 

Production of organic corn resulted in the greatest nitrous oxide emissions and represented about 8% of total GHG emission; corn also had the highest carbon dioxide emissions per hectare. Emissions decreased as the proportion of soybeans in the diet increased, as soybeans require less nitrogen fertilization... More intensive grazing practices led to higher GHG emission per metric tonne. However, allowing cows more time on pasture resulted in lower emissions associated with cropland. Manure management and replacement heifers accounted for 26 and 20% of GHG emissions... 

"Consumers often equate more dependence on pasture with environmentally friendly farming, but this study demonstrated that low milk production per cow is a major factor associated with high GHG emission. Managing both pasture and supplementation to increase milk production per cow will substantially reduce GHG emissions"...

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As with "organic" crop production, also "organic" dairy production needs more land to supply the same quantities as conventional agriculture, putting a big question mark over its sustainability... 
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